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Koppel: Concertos / Most, Fukacova, Staerk, Mann, Odense So

Release Date: 07/31/2007 
Label:  Dacapo   Catalog #: 8226032   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Herman D. Koppel
Performer:  Rune MostMichaela FukacováUlrik Staerk
Conductor:  Paul Mann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Odense Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

KOPPEL Flute Concerto. Cello Concerto. Piano Concerto No. 2 Paul Mann, cond; Rune Most (fl); Michaela Fukacova (vc); Ulrich Staerk (pn); Odense SO dacapo 8.226032 (78:17)

At this point in history, there can be little argument that Herman D. Koppel (1908–1998) was, together with Vagn Holmboe and Nils Viggo Bentzon, one of the triumvirate of towering figures in 20th-century Danish music. Although not as prolific as the other two, Koppel amassed a sizeable catalog of works, mostly orchestral, chamber, and Read more instrumental, that for the most part adhered formally to a mainstream-modernist template of neo-Classicism. But stylistically his idiom was open to a wide-ranging and constantly expanding type of chromatic expressivity.

This program of three concertos (two of which—those for flute and piano—are recording premieres) offers a neat cross section of Koppel’s half-century composing career and encapsulates the three major phases of his evolution. Paralleling his creative efforts was Koppel’s reputation as an imposing pianist (he was the first to record Nielsen’s principal piano works), so it is not surprising that he wrote three large-scale concertos for his own instrument. The Second Concerto, which dates from the mid 1930s and which for many years had been withdrawn by the composer, is vividly representative of his earliest period where a heavy rhythmic emphasis mostly derived from Stravinsky predominated. However, there are already passages where a meditative and somewhat quizzical lyricism, which would became more central in later years, holds sway. Although this work is slightly ungainly in its overextension (over half-an-hour), ultimately it leaves a dynamic and powerful impression. It is good now to have this prime example of Koppel’s early pianistic orientation documented on records.

The Cello Concerto of 1952 shows the composer during the post-war years moving away from the impassive and hard-bitten “modernism” of the Second Piano Concerto into a somewhat more conventional frame of mind. Written for his colleague, the famous Danish cellist Erling Blondal Bengtsson (who has since recorded it), this work spotlights the soloist in a more traditional virtuoso manner, where he is the focus in presenting ideas (there are two lengthy cadenzas) and driving the music forward, with the orchestra playing a slightly more subsidiary role. Nevertheless, the argument maintains the elements of sophisticated Nordic cosmopolitanism that characterizes all of Koppel’s music.

Composed almost 20 years later, the Flute Concerto of 1971 typifies Koppel’s late style where the Stravinskian turns of phrase are immersed in a more fluid and ambivalent atonality. This is a much more quirkily unpredictable but very laconic work (half the length of the piano concerto) with an almost chamber-like ambience, quite different from the two earlier scores in texture and tone, revealing how Koppel absorbed elements from the younger generation without compromising his essential nature.

Performances by these relatively little-known musicians all sound well prepared, effortless and probably close to definitive. And dacapo is to be commended for adhering to the non-plastic, heavy cardboard gatefold CD format. Would that other labels adopted it!

Now that they have done considerable justice to front-rank figures like Koppel, one hopes to see some recognition given to important secondary 20th-century Danes such as Finn Hoffding (1899–1997), Sven Schultz 1913–1998), and Sven-Eric Tarp (1908–1994). They, as in the case of the two recently issued symphonies by Leif Kayser, are well worth some attention.

FANFARE: Paul A. Snook
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Works on This Recording

Concerto for Flute, Op. 87a by Herman D. Koppel
Performer:  Rune Most (Flute)
Conductor:  Paul Mann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Odense Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; Denmark 
Venue:  Concert Hall, Odense, Denmark 
Length: 17 Minutes 57 Secs. 
Notes: Concert Hall, Odense, Denmark (05/17/2004 - 05/25/2004) 
Concerto for Cello, Op. 56 by Herman D. Koppel
Performer:  Michaela Fukacová (Cello)
Conductor:  Paul Mann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Odense Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952-1956; Denmark 
Venue:  Concert Hall, Odense, Denmark 
Length: 27 Minutes 17 Secs. 
Notes: Concert Hall, Odense, Denmark (05/17/2004 - 05/25/2004) 
Concerto for Piano no 2, Op. 30 by Herman D. Koppel
Performer:  Ulrik Staerk (Piano)
Conductor:  Paul Mann
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Odense Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: Denmark 
Venue:  Concert Hall, Odense, Denmark 
Length: 33 Minutes 3 Secs. 
Notes: Concert Hall, Odense, Denmark (05/17/2004 - 05/25/2004)
Composition written: Denmark (1936 - 1937). 

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